I have just finished reading Murakami’s ‘The Wind Up Bird Chronicle’.
It has taken me over three months to reach the final page, smashing any contenders for the ‘longest read ever’ title.
In most cases, I would have given up weeks ago; however, bought on the back of a respected recommendation, and prompted by a timely post asking at what point a book should be abandoned, I realised that this wasn’t the kind of novel I could shrug my shoulders and walk away from – and refocused my efforts in a dash for the end.
I am not sure what to make of it.
I have an English literature degree. One of the few things that I should feel on safe grounds with is analysing texts –
But with this novel, I’m surprisingly stumped; and resisting all urges to google its meaning and squish it into a nice, neat storyline and generic box.
I know that part of my confusion comes from the stopping – and starting – and putting down – and picking back up – of it, which I would therefore not advise (block out a few days and go with the absorption).
I appreciate that it is a bit different to the stuff that I normally read and is, quite possibly, intended to be multi-dimensional and intricately layered (as life itself is; and the characters, themselves, are)…
But, instead of the expected structure of a beginning, middle and tidily resolved end, I am left with a lot of questions; and a mishmash of brightly coloured images and vividly constructed characters. Of places and events and experiences that have been illuminated – and then whisked away again.
Maybe it is this quality that kept me going back for more?
Maybe there’s a parallel between the reader’s experience and that of the protagonist, a character who seems to attract, like a magnet, strange occurrences; to totally surrender himself – and his mind – to experiences; and, to search for an answer that is far from forthcoming.
Or maybe it’s as simple as the fact that life is made up of multiple stories, and layered with coincidences and connections and things that we will never fully understand. And, okay, Murakami takes it to the extreme with a (mysteriously) scarred-face narrator who spends a considerable amount of time sitting at the bottom of a dried up well – and a parallel story line of a Japanese officer in the second World War – and two women who are named after countries – and a man, called Cinnamon, who is unable to speak (to name a few); but who’s to say what’s real and what’s not, or what should be considered a story and what left behind on the shelf?
In some ways, Murakami lets us make that choice, as readers; and, I know exactly what I’m taking away from the novel, whether I missed the point or my confusion hits the nail on the head –
My fondness for the slightly directionless but nonetheless attractive protagonist, who I (sometimes) knew intimately and was rooting for all the way along.
The fascination of learning about a history (Japanese) and a culture, that I had minimal-to-no previous understanding of.
A better appreciation that things are rarely real – or unreal, fiction – or fact; and that life is a strange blend of the two. And that’s okay.
And, a commitment to never spending over three months reading a book again.
P.S. Options for the next book are as follow…
- ‘We Are All Made of Glue’ (Marina Lewycka)
- ‘Life Class’ (Pat Barker)
- ‘Between the Assassinations’ (Aravind Adiga)
- ‘The Children’s Book’ (A.S.Byatt)
Tags: reading the world